Editing a novel over fifteen-plus months honed skill, but how would I explain the process?
The storyline needed consistency and advancement and the structure tweaking, from word efficiency (consider the last two as: efficiency of words), through oomph statements.
When draft writing, I laid it down the way it formed in my brain, (somewhat troubling, eh?) Words flowed with message, but lacked conciseness. Lots of prepositions and conjunctions showed in the first draft. Perhaps I engaged the nasty verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’, or used adverbs without consideration. The tense jumped through time, present to past to future. Dialogue assembled not as spoken word, but as thought. I feared incomplete sentences or even avoided grammatical rules violation, what with Word ready to smite perceived misuse.
Sometimes two words suffice when a first draft needed six. Sometimes a sentence or paragraph reads as evaluation of possibilities, engaged thought verbs, or self-identified the character without need in first person narration.
A rough draft writes in black and white, but a story needs colour. A reader of Twined learned my protagonist mixes snark and humour as the story filters through her onto the page. She made judgements. In the initial writing, I wavered, not the way of a strong character. Declare.
Consider these two snippets of story, one from the first edit way back when, one from the last:
Helicopters make me crazy. Until this week, I never thought much about the fool machines. I might watch one pass overhead out of curiosity, my attention pulled skyward by the noise and their relative uniqueness. I recall watching with some interest a presidential copter carrying George Herbert Walker Bush pass overhead during my student years at Three Sisters College in Derryfield. Now I’m riding in on one for the second time in a week, this trip courtesy of the good folks of the **** (sorry, reveals too much.)
I have no fear of these machines or of flying; I just hate their rapid ascents and abrupt declines, and most of all, the incessant ear-splitting vibrato from the high power revved engine and air-stirring rotor.
Helicopters overran my life. Thirty-eight years I went without a sniff of a ride, and poof, one whisked me to Otis, four cornered me in the park, and several buzzed aloft. In years past, if a copter passed overhead, the noise and its unusual presence pulled my attention skyward for a few seconds. During my college years, a presidential copter entourage carrying George Herbert Walker Bush passed a few times while I watched.
Flying bothered not, at least in the usual sense. Airplanes and I, buddies on the fly. The rapid ascents and abrupt declines of helicopters, and most of all, the incessant ear-splitting vibrato from their high-powered revved engines and rotors, upset my stomach and made my head ache.
The damn things mocked my distaste. Over three days they swarmed and blew away my lack of experience. Yet another ingested me in the park, courtesy of the good folks of the ****. (And again.)
Enable characters, empower their judgement. Embrace concise wording. Weed out the thought verbs, the Shakespearean ‘to be’ one, as well as ‘to have’. Tighten up the tenses, watch story consistency, and if first person narration, stay in character.
Adding this in: when I work a difficult paragraph, I copy it and paste it on a blank page. Think of it as a whiteboard for creativity. It works every time.